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Saints fans devilish in booing QB Wilson

THE BALTIMORE SUN

New Orleans Saints fans weren't in a holiday mood Monday night, when the team lost to the New York Giants.

When quarterback Wade Wilson went down with a knee injury and was in obvious pain, the fans cheered.

ABC sportscaster Dan Dierdorf called the fans "classless pigs," and Wilson said: "It was low-class and uncalled-for. Those people have to live with themselves."

Even opposing coach Dan Reeves of the Giants seemed shocked.

"I've been in the game for 29 years, and I don't think I've heard someone cheer when one of their players got hurt," Reeves said. "I've heard cheers when the other team's players got hurt, which I always thought was bad in itself. But when you do that for one of your own players, I couldn't believe it."

Saints coach Jim Mora was even more annoyed.

"Those are some sick, sick, sick, sick people," he said. "Mentally sick. I thought it was horrible, disgusting, embarrassing, shameful. It stunk."

He continued in that vein and finally said: "What's the world coming to when people cheer when somebody gets hurt? What is sports coming to when they do those kinds of things?"

Unfortunately, it's probably a sign of the times. In this big-money era, the fans don't have much patience. They have to pay inflated prices to see the games, they know what the players are making and they want results.

Chicago Bears owner Mike McCaskey, a former Ivy League professor, gave a more scholarly view of the problem when he talked about the flak quarterback Jim Harbaugh is getting in Chicago.

"I think what we're seeing is a sea change in people's attitudes toward athletes, entertainers and politicians," McCaskey said. "I'll leave it to the sociologists to decide whether it's television, an emphasis on instant gratification, advertising, the disappearance of Latin from the school curriculum or the weakening of the nuclear family. People wiser than I can decide why it is."

Incentive

The San Francisco 49ers and the Giants are the two teams blocking the Dallas Cowboys' road to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys obviously think the 49ers have better talent from their Pro Bowl vote.

They voted six 49ers on their first team -- Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Jesse Sapolu, Guy McIntyre, Tim McDonald and Harris Barton. They didn't vote one Giant on the first team. The Giants may remember that when they play the Cowboys next week.

The fans also were allowed to vote this year, and their vote is supposed to count one-third, but the ballot was so confusing that few fans voted.

The Pro Bowl selections will be announced on ESPN next Tuesday night. The league is trying to turn everything into a TV show.

The signal

Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Frontiere sent a public message last week: She's thinking about moving.

The fact that gave her first interview in several years to the Los Angeles Times and talked about exploring her options was a signal that she at least will consider it.

On the West Coast, the feeling is that she'll even decide to give the city of Anaheim the 15 months' notice that she must give before she can get out of her lease at Anaheim Stadium.

Giving notice doesn't mean she'll move -- the odds are probably less than 50-50 right now that she'll do it -- but it would open the door for serious talks with Baltimore officials, and those talks could take on a momentum of their own.

Frontiere probably hasn't made up her mind whether to move and probably doesn't relish the hassle that goes with moving. But if she starts the process, the logic of a move could prove to be overwhelming.

The interesting thing is that pressure from commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Jack Kent Cooke's talk of moving the Washington Redskins to Laurel haven't deterred her from at least considering a move.

Meanwhile, the team's vice president, John Shaw, is keeping his options open.

He seems about to agree to an extension of the lease at the team's training facility that would give the Rams an escape clause and allow them to leave by 1995.

The ??? Patriots

Gov. William Weld still is trying to get a $700 million megaplex (a convention center and domed football stadium) passed by the Massachusetts legislature to save the New England Patriots from being moved.

He said Tagliabue said he would "push very hard" for a Boston Super Bowl if the bill passed, although the owners wouldn't be thrilled with another northern Super Bowl.

House Speaker Charles Flaherty, one of the key opponents of the megaplex, has softened his opposition if Boston can get premier events, such as the Super Bowl.

Weld said he thinks that a deal to finance the project is closer to reality.

"I think it's moving," Weld said last week. "I have increasingly the sense . . . that it will get done in January, if not by Jan. 4," the end of the legislative session.

If the bill passes, it's likely a local group would buy the team from St. Louis businessman James Orthwein, who is trying to sell.

The club is in such bad financial shape that it's no longer viable at Foxboro Stadium.

Last year, the team paid $5 million to people no longer associated with the club, including former owner Billy Sullivan, who gets $250,000 a year for life.

Michael O'Hallaron, vice chairman of the Patriots board, said last week that he hopes to reach a sales agreement by year's end.

"We are sticking to that schedule," he said, although the year ends this week.

Disagreeing again

The honeymoon between Tagliabue and Cooke didn't last as long as some of Cooke's marriages.

The two old rivals -- Cooke was against Tagliabue's election as commissioner and exchanged angry letters with him after his Wilber Marshall decision -- became allies to block Baltimore's expansion bid. That opened the door for Cooke to try to move to Maryland.

But Cooke was upset with Tagliabue again after the new TV contracts were negotiated. Obscured by the huge Fox bid was that the TV committee left money on the table when it accepted the NBC bid for the AFC package over the higher CBS bid.

The CBS bid was worth $30 million a year more, or $120 million over the four years of the contract. NBC bid $220 million a year and CBS $250 million a year.

That will cost Cooke almost $4 million, and he doesn't pass up that kind of money easily.

For example, the best thing coach Richie Petitbon has going for him now is that it would cost Cooke about $1.5 million to fire Petitbon and his whole staff, because they each have a year left on their contracts.

What was so puzzling about the decision to leave TV money on the table are the "explanations" the league spinmeisters have come up with to try to justify it.

They've said the CBS bid was too late and that they had a "gentleman's agreement" with NBC. They've even suggested they deliberately made the NBC deal first to get more leverage with Fox.

But if the NBC deal was done, why did the league wait three days last weekend to announce it? Why did it issue a news release saying the AFC package "is under consideration by the NFL Broadcasting Committee chaired by commissioner Tagliabue" on Dec. 18 if the deal was done with NBC two days earlier?

Was the league surprised by the CBS bid for the AFC, and did NBC then mention the magic word that scares the NFL -- lawsuit?

Anyway, when the owners meet on Jan. 5 in Dallas to ratify the deal, Cooke will want some answers.

It probably still will be ratified, but not before some questions are asked.

No comment

The NFL keeps having problems with media relations.

In the latest incident, Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson announced that he's no longer talking to reporters from the Kansas City Star.

Peterson was unhappy, among other things, about an article last Sunday detailing civil and criminal cases filed against 15 players on the 1992 roster.

Peterson said the reporters can report on what the Chiefs do on the field and "that will be enough."

Players and coaches still will be allowed to talk.

The other deal

On the same day that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Troy Aikman a $50 million deal, he was ordered by an arbitrator to pay wide receiver Jimmy Smith his $350,000 salary.

After Smith suffered appendicitis during the exhibition season, Jones contended it was a non-football injury and refused to pay Smith's full salary.

The arbitrator, Herb Fishgold, ruled a hit that Smith suffered in an exhibition game contributed to the problem. Smith had complained about stomach pain before the game, but the Cowboys allowed him to play.

Under fire

Browns coach Bill Belichick continues to enrage Cleveland fans.

After the Browns were knocked out of the playoff picture by losing to New England last week, Belichick said: "To be honest with you, I feel we're a better team now than we were at 5-2." The Browns are 6-8.

That prompted one TV sportscaster, Jim Donovan, to say on the air: "We now have concrete evidence that Bill Belichick has lost his mind."

Belichick also supported quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who was intercepted twice in the last five minutes of the loss to New England.

"I think he's got a great future here. I have no doubt we can win with him here," Belichick said.

That's a minority opinion in Cleveland these days.

Blocking technique

Barton, the 49ers' newest millionaire offensive lineman, perfected his craft because of his single-minded devotion to being a lineman.

His high school coach, David Kelly of Dunwoody, Ga., explains how dedicated Barton is.

"Up until maybe a year ago, Harris did little, if any, dating," Kelly said. "He felt like that was a distraction to the goals he had set for himself. He'd be walking down the streets of San Francisco and see a female, and all he would think about was how he would set up and pass-block from the way she was moving. That may seem weird, but all people who are the best at what they do are unique in their individuality."

Kelly has one thing right. It seems weird.

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